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The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating Acceptance and Self-Care

Winter 2013 Diet Survivor's Newsletter

Diet Survivors Book


Welcome to the Winter 2013 e-mail!

(Based on The Diet Survivor's Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care)

As we settle into the winter months, sitting in front of a roaring fire or a drinking a cup of hot chocolate can help warm us up during these chilly days. As a diet survivor, it's also important to take care of yourself as the 2013 weight loss messages bombard us through the airwaves, covers of magazines and through our computers. Make sure that you find ways to support yourself by minimizing your exposure to diet messages and connecting with like-minded people—in person or online—who also embrace the notion of quitting diets and making peace with food, their bodies and themselves.

Our lesson this season focuses on taking good care of yourself and your body, without focusing on weight loss. Judith was asked by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to write about this topic, and we're sharing her piece here as our Winter Lesson. It begins like this:


Weight loss is one of the most popular resolutions each year, as millions of people promise to take off the pounds through dieting. But as scientific evidence shows that weight is not simply a matter of calories in and calories out, the reality that our bodies are not as malleable as we'd like to think is beginning to sink in: an increasing number of women are no longer willing to settle for waiting to lose weight in order to be happy. Anchorwoman Jennifer Livingston took the time to tell viewers that a letter criticizing her as a role model because of her body size was nothing short of bullying, and Stella Boonshoft, a New York college student who writes the Body Love Blog, let the people know of her mission to promote self-acceptance in a photo of herself wearing a bikini that went viral.

Body confidence means taking care of—and feeling—good in the body that you have, without apology. It does not mean "anything goes!" Instead, with the utmost respect, care and compassion for yourself, you can lose the shame and enjoy life in 2013 and beyond.

Here are five tips to help you build body confidence during this holiday season: (Click here to read more.)



Breaking the diet mentality is hard work! Even when people quit dieting, letting go of the notion that some foods are "good" and other foods are "bad" can feel scary. And, the categorizations of what's good and what's bad may be so ingrained that you're not even aware of the judgments you're making when you decide what to eat.

When you're stuck in the good/bad thinking, you're likely to choose "healthy" foods at times, but not feel satisfied. You're also likely to choose "forbidden" foods at times, even when you're not hungry for them. Both of these situations leave you feeling physically (and perhaps emotionally) uncomfortable. When you truly let your internal cues guide you in deciding what to eat, you're much more likely to feel physically and emotionally satisfied. Then, you can eat the healthful foods when they truly nourish you, and incorporate all foods into your life.

Give yourself some room to experiment. When you're physically hungry, bring awareness to your stomach and try to figure out what would feel just right in your body. Let go of what you're supposed to eat, and choose the food(s) that will truly satisfy you. When you do this, you'll end the feelings of deprivation that come with dieting while you discover that your body enjoys a wide variety of foods. As we like to say at our workshops, we've never met anyone who only wants ice cream, cake, potato chips and pizza, and we've never met anyone who only wants broccoli, apples, salads and rice cakes!


On January 2, 2013, a headline in The New York Times read: Study Suggests Lower Mortality Rate for People Deemed to be Overweight. Katherine Flegal, researcher at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) analyzed almost 100 studies that included approximately three million people.

Her study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that people in the "overweight" category of Body Mass Index (BMI) had lower deaths rates in a given year, compared to those in the "normal" weight category. People at the lower end of the "obesity" category, which is where the greatest number of Americans classified as obese fall, also had lower mortality rates compared to "normal" weight while people at the higher end of the "obesity" BMI had higher mortality rates than the "normal" category. The report concluded, "Not all patients classified as being overweight or having grade 1 obesity, particularly those with chronic diseases, can be assumed to require weight loss treatment. Establishing BMI is only the first step toward a more comprehensive risk evaluation." (JAMA. 2013;309(1):87-88)

Given that people often pursue weight loss in the name of health, what are some of the implications of this study? From our perspective as therapists who support the Health At Every Size® paradigm, we continue to advise that people focus on sustainable behaviors that promote health, rather than focusing on the pursuit of weight loss.

It always astonishes us when reporters admonish people, as they did in The New York Times article: "But don't scrap those New Year's weight-loss resolutions and start gorging on fried Belgian waffles or triple cheeseburgers."

We don't know of any health professionals who would recommend overeating to gain weight in order to fall into a higher BMI category; likewise, we don't support undereating to lose weight. The reality is that people come in different shapes and sizes. If we can embrace size diversity, then people can get on with the task of taking good care of themselves and achieving optimal health at whatever weight is natural for them, without the shame and blame that accompanies the pursuit of thinness.


  • Judith will present a three-hour workshop, Attuned Eating/Mindful Eating, on Saturday, January 19th from 9:30 – 12:30 in Yorkville, IL. For more info and to register, click here.

  • Judith will present a webinar sponsored by The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) entitled: Supporting Healthy Body Image through Nutrition Education and Counseling. The webinar takes place on Friday, February 22. More info will be available soon at

  • Save the date! The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) will hold its conference in Chicago on June 28th – 30th. There is also an event planned on Friday (June 28th) for people in the Chicago area interested in the Health At Every Size approach. More details to follow in our next newsletter, but since Chicago is our hometown, we will both be there!

  • Amanda's Big Dream, a children's book to promote positive body image, continues to take shape as Elizabeth Patch illustrates Judith's story. You can get a sneak peak of Amanda by going to our new website (that's only just begun…).

  • Healthy Bodies: Teaching Kids What They Need to Know, written by our colleague Kathy Kater, LCSW, is an excellent curriculum for children in grade school through junior high. If you're a teacher—or would like to see this used in your local school—please check out this invaluable resource. We love the mission statement:
    To empower boys and girls to maintain positive boy esteem based on recognition and acceptance of what they can and cannot control in regard to size and shape.

    To empower boys and girls to resist unrealistic and unhealthy cultural pressures regarding body image, eating, fitness and weight.

    To inspire boys and girls to develop a stake in caring for their bodies; in eating well, enjoying physical movement and fitness, and in appreciation of the healthy, diverse bodies that result.
  • Please add your "like" to our Diet Survivors Group Facebook page. We're posting more often and would love to have you join us. ☺


After working on the process of attuned eating for about six months, Isabelle was thrilled to discover how much better she felt about her relationship with food. She could usually wait until she was physically hungry to start eating, and for the first time in her life, she had a well-stocked kitchen with all of the foods that she loved. But the problem, she explained, was that even when she noticed her fullness at dinner, she found it hard to stop. Isabelle felt perplexed because during the rest of the day, she was able to honor her cues for fullness.

Isabelle was encouraged to visualize the last time she ate past fullness at dinner. She closed her eyes and imagined herself eating the food on her plate, and then noticed the moment she felt satisfied. What would she have thought about or felt if she stopped eating at that moment?

Isabelle related that she wasn't sure what to with herself once she stopped eating. On the one hand, she had some chores to do—but she felt tired and wanted to avoid these tasks. At the same time, she felt guilty about the idea of just relaxing and watching a TV show when there was so much work to be done! She realized that her overeating was a way to put off her decision about what to do after dinner.

Isabelle isn't alone with this issue. We often hear from diet survivors that when they're not sure how they will spend their evening, eating may become prolonged as a way to avoid the pressures or boredom they anticipate ahead. Isabelle was encouraged set an intention before she began eating her dinner; this action helped eliminate the need to use food to avoid making a decision.

Do you ever prolong your eating because you don't know what you'll do after you've finished? If so, like Isabelle, set an intention for yourself. Be clear about what you're going to do as soon as you've honored your hunger and fullness. It may be to get some chores done (even if you don't enjoy doing them…), to relax, to connect with a friend or to work on a hobby. Just as with food, take away the judgment, and make the best match that you can! Remember that food can only fill physical hunger; other hungers ultimately need to be met in other ways.


Wishing you a nourishing season,

All the best,
Judith and Ellen

Judith Matz, LCSW
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Ellen Frankel, LCSW
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Diet Survivors

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